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A Firefighter's Silent Killer: Suicide

     

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Firefighter's Silent Killer: Suicide



12/01/2012



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Silence often hides the very issue one must confront. Suicide often occurs because of the silence of society and the silence a person perceives is necessary when contemplating suicide caused by the absence of open and honest communication regarding the reality of suicidal thoughts in response to pain, stress, trauma, and even depression or other mental illnesses. Many people do not like to talk about suicide because of cultural, moral, social, ethical, or religious beliefs. For some, there may be a strong emotional tie to a friend or a family member who has committed suicide. For others, it is a misperception that no one "talks" about suicide. It is this very silence that prevents reduction of suicide among firefighters. If we are serious about decreasing the number of firefighter suicides in this country, we must change that the fire service does not talk about suicide and that it has not embraced any formal suicide training/education awareness/prevention programs. Only in the past year or so have a number of fire service agencies/departments taken a more aggressive approach to educating firefighters on suicide. These agencies serve as a benchmark for others. In this article, we explore the issue of silence surrounding the topic of suicide, risk factors for suicide, the need for additional scientific research on suicides in the fire service, and the development of a national suicide prevention and education program aimed at the fire service (career, call, and volunteer).



THE SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM



Regardless of which problem-solving process you use, generally the steps are identifying the problem, followed by analyzing the problem, and then deciding on the most effective solution. Here is the first challenge: The fire service collectively has not admitted suicide is a problem. Until the fire service identifies suicide as a problem for fire personnel, little time and fiscal resources will be devoted to suicide prevention. Nationally, the fire service does not have a formal tracking mechanism of firefighter suicides, which makes it difficult to analyze how significantly the fire service is impacted by suicides. Overall, the fire service lacks scientific research identifying suicide as a significant cause of death for firefighters. One study that examined North Carolina firefighters found the following: "Compared with professional firefighter line-of-duty deaths (LODDs), suicides occurred more than three times as often."1 This statistic, along with anecdotal evidence, suggests the fire service indeed has a silent killer



For more information go to: http://www.fireengineering.com/articles/print/volume-165/issue-12/features/firefighters-silent-killer-suicide.html  




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